Will Blackwell-Chambers signed off the 2017 season with the title - Photo: Jon Elsey

After a manic 21 races throughout the previous seven meetings, the season finale for the 2017 BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship played out at Donington Park in Leicestershire precisely as champion-elect Will Blackwell-Chambers had planned – keep it on the road, keep it out of trouble and seal the crown for himself – which he did!

The weekend was already a momentous one for the Championship as it featured its most significant entry to date since the championship came to be in its current guise. 71 drivers were on the entry list to tackle Donington Park’s National circuit, meaning two very busy groups heading out for qualifying. Group 1 was topped by title challenger Oliver Allwood as he lapped 0.332s clear of James Harris who was 2nd fastest with Paul Maguire an excellent 3rd. Joshua Jackson, also an outside bet for the title wound up 4th fastest with Masters points leader Martin Tolley completing the top 5 from Mike Comber.

In the second group, Blackwell-Chambers did as expected and scored the fastest time of the season, ending up just 0.025s ahead of fellow Mike Comber Racing teammate Samuel Smith in 2nd. Stephen Foden was another driver finding an impressive turn of pace with 3rd fastest, While Brian Trott and Stuart Symonds completed the top 5 times ahead of Jason Greatrex in 6th.

With the times combined for the grids for Race 1, it left Allwood on pole with the faster lap time, and Blackwell-Chambers sat alongside him on the front row. Smith and Harris made up Row 2 ahead of Foden and Maguire, with Trott and Jackson lining up on the 4th row from Tolley and Symonds. The run into Redgate corner for the first time was always going to be tense!

That tension spilled over into Race 1 when a unfortunate first lap incident eventually ended up claiming seven victims, most notably including Masters title contender Paul Tucker. Patrick Collins was also a notable victim as a hard impact into the back of a slower car caught up in the melee left him with severe damage to the front end of his car.

With no choice but throw out the red flag and stop the race, the drivers regrouped on the grid for a second crack at the start. This time, everyone made it around the first lap cleanly and drama free, with Allwood holding the lead from pole position. Samuel Smith made a bid for the lead on lap 3 and took it, albeit for one lap, before Allwood reclaimed the place on the next lap and began to make a break out in front. This left Smith to contend with Harris, Jackson and Trott over the next few laps, while Blackwell-Chambers decided all he needed to do was just sit back and bank the points he needed to become champion. Thankfully from there, Allwood was unchallenged as he drove away to a lead of almost 6 seconds to finally pick up his first win of the season – literally a year after his last Mk1 success! Smith won the tussle for 2nd place in the end with Harris coming home on the final podium step in 3rd place.

Jackson and Trott completed the top 5 from a conservative Blackwell-Chambers in 6th, while Martin Tolley took one step closer to the Mk1 title with 7th. Making a one-off appearance back in a Mazda, former Mk1 frontrunner and 2015 MX-5 SuperCup champion Alan Henderson finished a respectable 8th from Charlie Burge and Paul Maguire who completed the top 10.

Moving into the first Group B race, Simon Woods wound up in pole position with Jack Warry for company on the front row. Matt Pickford and Charlie Rawles took up Row 2 from Anthony Hutchins and Bryn Griffiths, with the 4th row of Adrian Burge and Luke Souch followed by Michael Close and first MX-5 racer Leslie Charneca in 10th.

Warry wasted no time in picking up the lead from the start and held it throughout the opening two laps. Woods made a move on Lap 3 to hit the front for a single lap before Warry retook the lead on the next lap. Warry sadly wouldn’t see the flag after retiring with late into the race, leaving Woods to duke it out with BC Cars teammate Matt Pickford out in front. Eventually, Woods would fend off and beat Pickford to the line with Adrian Burge coming home in 3rd place -  a 1-2-3 for Brian Chandler’s drivers! Michael Fisk managed 4th place ahead of Anthony Hutchins in 5th, while Russ Lindsay and Bryn Griffiths took 6th and 7th places respectively. Stuart Brittle ended up 8th from Andrew Caird in 9th, and Nick Le Doyen rounded out the top 10.

For the second Group A race, Allwood lined up on pole again with Smith alongside, ahead of Harris, Jackson, Trott and Blackwell-Chambers. Once again the lead in the early laps switched between Allwood and Smith, although once again it would be Allwood taking charge of the race from the front. But while he and Smith drove away in a battle amongst themselves, the fight for 3rd was intensifying with every corner driven. Joshua Jackson led a pack of cars containing Harris, Blackwell-Chambers, Maguire, Trott and Tolley with all drivers in proximity, with Courtney Milnes and Charlie Burge also looking on. After several laps of nose to tail running, Harris eventually elected to attempt a move on Jackson at McLeans, which sadly ended in disaster. Making contact with the #72 twice, Harris tipped Jackson into a spin before also tagging Maguire in the process seconds later.

Brian Trott was the most significant loser out of this incident as he hit Jackson as his car came back on the track, followed by a rear impact from Burge which ended his weekend prematurely. Then just moments later, Richard Collins ended up with nowhere to go and hit Trott’s stranded car. Because of this, the red flags had to be brought out, and the race was stopped prematurely. Harris was subsequently excluded from the race result for his part in the incidents.

Because of the carambolage, Allwood and Smith picked up the win and 2nd place respectively. Joshua Jackson did manage to still pick up the final podium place in 3rd, however more significantly it would be 4th placed Will Blackwell-Chambers that would have the most notable cause for celebration as that result would seal his fate and see him crowned as the 2017 BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Champion. Martin Tolley completed the top 5 and took one step closer to the Masters title with Charlie Burge managing to hold on to 6th place from Mike Comber and Patrick Lay. The top 10 was completed by Courtney Milnes and Sam Bailey.

On to the second Group B race, Paul Tucker and Jason Taylor took up the front row from Lindsay and Griffiths, with Stuart Brittle and Andrew Caird taking up Row 3. Nick Le Doyen and Leslie Charneca made up the 4th row ahead of Yoshihiro Ito and Jon Pethick.

Tucker wasted no time in jumping into the lead from pole with MX-5 returnee Caird slotting into 2nd place immediately, while Lindsay and Brittle also made fast starts. As for Jason Taylor, he remained in the top 5 in the opening laps before dropping down the order on Lap 5. In the lead, Tucker would not be headed all race and practically cruised home to a very straightforward victory by over 4.5 seconds, with William Stephenson the eventual 2nd placed finisher in the car he was sharing with Alan Henderson. Andrew Caird fittingly marked his comeback to Mazda circles with 3rd place, ahead of Russ Lindsay and Jason Taylor, with the rest of the top 10 populated by Le Doyen, Warry, Michael Close, Jon Pethick and Stephen Foden.

For the final Group A race of the weekend, Oliver Allwood completed the full house of pole position starts in a bid to secure a hat-trick of wins. Samuel Smith was once again on the front row, ahead of Jackson  all on his own on Row 2. So where was new champion Will Blackwell-Chambers? Well, he’d elected to start his last race of the season from the pitlane in a bid to enjoy himself and have some fun before the season was out – and to keep out of any potential trouble into Redgate! Tolley and Burge made up row 3 from Comber and Lay, while Milnes and Bailey completed the top 10 starters for the final time.

When the lights went out, it was Smith who would lead the opening laps this time, only being headed on lap four by Allwood who then set about attempting to secure his 3rd win of the season. For most of the race, he was exactly where he needed to be as Smith followed suit while Jackson and Smith’s MCR team boss Mike Comber gave chase. Smith was able to catch and pass Allwood on the penultimate lap, however he wouldn’t be the one standing on the top step of the rostrum for the final time in Group A. That honour eventually went to Jackson, who started the last lap of the race in 3rd, but brilliantly negotiated his way past both Smith and then Allwood to clinch victory. Allwood would indeed get back past Smith in the process to pick up 2nd place, while off the podium it was Comber who would claim 4th place ahead of Patrick Lay, while Martin Tolley picked up 6th position and also the Masters crown after being the first driver home in their contest. Sam Bailey finished 7th with Adam Craig, Courtney Milnes and Charlie Burge rounding off the finishers inside the top 10.

So, it was on to the very last race of the entire season with the final Group B encounter of the weekend. For this one, Paul Maguire would start on pole, but found himself on his own on the front row after Brian Trott’s car was too severely damaged after his incident in Race 2. Richard Collins was unable to take the start from Row 2 either, leaving Christopher Stapleton to also fend for himself from the second row of the grid. James Harris and Jack Warry would indeed start together on Row 3, followed by Michael Close and Jon Pethick, with Stephen Foden and Bryn Griffiths completing the top 10.

Maguire wasted no time jumping into the lead from pole, but it was a stunning start from Close back in the fourth row that saw him storm up to 2nd place by the end of the lap. While Maguire set out to build his lead which he eventually would never end up losing, it was the skirmish for 2nd place behind him that entertained the spectators. Close, Jack Warry and Stephen Foden would eventually all group together with Warry passing Close on lap 6, thus, in turn, allowing Foden to close up. Close spent the next few laps hounding Warry in a bit to repass him and did so on Lap 8, before slipping to 4th when Foden also made his way through along with Warry. Foden’s car sadly wouldn’t make the flag after retiring late in the race, leaving Close to finally repass for 2nd place one more time and claim the runner’s up spot.

As mentioned, Maguire would take a lights-to-flag victory in the final race of the season from Close and Warry, while Christopher Stapleton and Jon Pethic completed the top 5 finishers. Stuart Brittle picked up 6th spot from Alan Hawkins and an impressive effort from newcomer Leslie Charneca to take 8th, while Bryn Griffiths and Charlie Rawles rounded up the final top 10 of the season.

And so ends another magnificent season of Mazda MX-5 racing with the BRSCC. A massive thank you goes to all of our drivers, teams, sponsors, partners and personnel for making 2017 one of the best seasons in the championship’s history and of course, a hearty congratulations goes to Will Blackwell-Chambers, our new champion! Now the question remains – will WB-C be able to make it back-to-back crowns in 2018, or will his rivals be able to stop him leaving someone else at the top of the table? Join us next year for another fantastic campaign of racing to find out!

You can find the full breakdown of the results from Donington Park via TSL Timing here – DONINGTON RESULTS.

Scott Woodwiss

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